mind.in.a.box – Memories
Released 20th March 2015 on Dreamweb Music [DWM 003]
Available to buy, signed by Stefan Poiss, from THXY Music
by Martin McNeill
mind.in.a.box from Austria are one of the few remaining pure electronic/synthpop bands that are still making relevant and powerful modern music that isn’t lodged in the past. After a wait of over 3 years during which time singer/songwriter Stefan Poiss concentrated on his side-project THYX (pronounced “Thix” for anyone interested), MAIB return with another solid chapter in the story of Mr Black and Mr White in the near future-noir world of The Agency. Influences range from Blade Runner to the twisted, confused psychology of A Scanner Darkly.
Memories is the bands 6th album and doesn’t break the mold and it shouldn’t really since it’s always been a concept story-based project. Listen to THYX if you want to hear Poiss try out new things. With Memories, the band seem to have much more openly embraced the storyline concept running through all the bands albums. The opening and closing tracks have significant spoken word pieces setting the scene which may well turn off some newcomers unused to such things. The album itself doesn’t require knowledge of the storyline to enjoy it, but merely it adds an extra layer of depth for those that want to delve deeper inside the Dreamweb.
MAIB has often felt like it was in a constant struggle against feelings of hopelessness. There’s an underlying melancholy and battle with the impending weight of depression, or perhaps madness from fear of not being able to fit in. It’s the melancholy that comes from accepting ones own fate and the dread fear of changing it for the better. Recently I’ve tended to think of MIAB as being something of an electronic sister to The National. On one of the albums most catchy tracks “Unforgiving World”, Poiss sings –
“deep down inside me,
I have this little piece of hope.
that someday I’ll find my place,
in this unforgiving world.”
All the lyrics are written by Markus Hadwiger with Stefan Poiss entirely responsible for turning them into music and song. I’ve often wondered about the relationship between the 2 parts since they seem to match each other so perfectly as if one and the same, yet are the results of 2 separate minds. Maybe this is the true Mr. Black and Mr. White as written about in the music? “I Knew” deals directly with the regret of not having had the courage to change due to fear of actually living, while “No Hope” is perhaps a slightly angry but brief decent into self pity. In many ways the album is walking us through the stages of grief.
In “Silent Pain” Poiss sings – “Suddenly I feel a pain, my mind still struggling to resist. Suddenly I can remember, it hits me hard, it’s all coming back.” I can’t help but think of the tendency of the anxious mind to literally remind themselves to feel anxious and stressed for no real reason at all. There’s a constant thread of shame over the past and the regret that comes with not changing it when the opportunities were there. Crucially however there is also a constant thread of accepting the mistakes of the past and a hope for the future, always a ray of light.
Perhaps the roles of Black and White are merely 2 sides of the same troubled mind. One is the subconscious side that creates fear and uncertainty in us all that we must fight against and try to control, while the other is the conscious mind that to many troubled people often feels like a puppet to the other but can still think and act logically.
The albums most danceable and instantly catchy tune with its more traditional driving synth lines is Timelessness. We often hear people saying that “music saved my life” and it seems to speak of music as being the thing that keeps some of us going and the thing that can save us in our darkest moments.
“Instead of air you are breathing melody.”
It can be more difficult to get emotion out of a machine but MIAB has consistently done it better than anyone currently in the business. If you like electronic vocal music with good tunes but also depth and maturity then Memories should be in your music queue. The best thing about Memories is its listenability. It’s got plenty of strongly hooked singles in there yet also certainly isn’t just a collection of nice simple tunes that wears itself out after you learn each track either. I’ve been listening to it for the last 2 weeks on repeat and there comes a point where an album clicks and i’ve figured out its layout and then it’s usually all downhill from there but, Memories manages to hold my attention and i uncover new things here and there as i listen to it more. It’s quite a mature and cultured album which is incredibly rare in this genre.
Perhaps if the band ever draws to a definitive end we will hear a completely uplifting album free from the memories and regrets of the past but, then again, who’s to say things won’t lapse.